'Trusted uncle’ who sold sweets allegedly raped, killed girl (9)

A framed photograph of Lusanda Nkomo at her funeral. Picture: KZN Provincial Government

A framed photograph of Lusanda Nkomo at her funeral. Picture: KZN Provincial Government

Published Mar 31, 2024


A South Coast mother wants justice after the “trusted Indian uncle” who sold sweets and chips outside the local school, and allegedly assaulted and raped her 9-year-old daughter before strangling her to death with his bare hands.

Lusanda Nkomo’s naked, battered and bruised body was found by a local herdsman in a bush, a day after she had gone missing.

A 57-year-old man, formerly from Phoenix, and known to Lusanda and her family, was arrested and charged for her rape and murder. He lived on the same street as the family.

The accused abandoned his bail application at the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court last Monday. He is due back in court on April 17.

The Grade 4 pupil at Umkomaas Drift Primary School was reported missing on March 17.

Local ward councillor, Jane Naidoo, said police had indicated that Lusanda had been “assaulted, raped and strangled”.

“I believe that the accused has made a confession. There have been rumours that the child’s eyes had been gouged out and this could have been a muti killing.

“There are also claims that the suspect could be a serial killer or rapist and had done this to children in other areas.

“He is not well known in this area. He had only moved here a few months ago. He is from Phoenix,” said Naidoo.

She said what was even more worrying was that the suspect and his wife were vendors outside a school in the community, where they sold sweets and chips to children.

“He is a risk and danger to other children. We do not want him back in our community. He must be denied bail, pending the finalisation of this case. The fact that he is known to the child and her family and that they share a relationship or friendship based on trust is very sad.”

The child’s distraught mother, Nokulunga Nkomo, said Lusanda and her older sister had returned home from church last Sunday and were busy with chores, when the suspect called for Lusanda and asked her to go to the shop to buy airtime for him.

“When she returned from the shop, he had asked her to go with him to find his dog that had escaped from his yard.

“The dog always runs off and at the time she did not find his request suspicious or out of the ordinary. He was the Indian uncle we all trusted.

“Lusanda trusted him and went with him to look for the dog.

“He had moved into the area in October last year,” Nkomo said.

She said when Lusanda failed to return home later that afternoon, members of the community rallied to look for her. The police were also alerted, said Nkomo.

“The uncle’s partner, who lived with him, told us that Lusanda had gone with him.

“But she later told us that she had not followed him.

“Later on, the woman changed her story and said she did not see Lusanda leaving with him.

“However, Lusanda’s friends from the neighbourhood told us they had seen her with the uncle. This made me suspicious and worried,” Nkomo added.

She said the search by family members and the community continued through the night until Monday morning, when Lusanda’s body was discovered by a herdsman in a bush.

“She was severely assaulted. Her face was badly damaged … especially her eyes. Her face looked like it had been bludgeoned. She had also been raped.

“My baby was found naked. Her dress was used to cover her face. I am very, very angry and I don’t want this monster to get bail. He must rot in jail,” Nkomo said.

Angry community members confronted the suspect at his home soon after Lusanda’s body was found.

After his arrest, residents removed all his belongings from his house and set it alight.

Nkomo said she and her children were traumatised and struggling to come to terms with Lusanda’s murder.

“Her siblings are crying non-stop. We cannot believe this man betrayed our trust and committed such a heinous crime.

“Lusanda was a bubbly girl and loved dancing, playing and doing her homework. She loved school.

“Her dream when she grew up was to be either a teacher, a doctor or police officer.

“Now she is dead and has become another crime statistic. Justice must be served,” Nkomo said.

Narend Singh, member of Parliament for the IFP and community leader in the Durban South area, said the residents of Umkomaas were shocked by Lusanda’s murder.

“We must also ask ourselves, does the justice system serve us, does it protect us and our families?

“The continuous cases of gender based and child violence is an indication that jail time is not a deterrent.

“Going forward, we need to discuss bringing the death penalty back,” he added.